Fly strike is a potentially fatal infestation of any animal by maggots.
Fly strike is most common during the summer months leading up to October…and can still occur less commonly during the winter months if flies are present.
Flies lay their eggs on or around the rabbit’s affected area where they hatch within as little as 8-12 hours into maggots that eat into the rabbit’s flesh, eating the necrotic flesh and waste, moving onto live tissue, literally eating the rabbit alive and releasing digestive toxins in the process.
In severe cases, dermal tissue (skin) in the effected area is eaten with maggot infestation moving into the organs and muscles. At this point euthanasia is the kindest option. Recovery is unlikely.
While more common to outdoor rabbits, fly strike can occur on indoor rabbits as well.
The most common culprits are the blow fly (common green bottle fly) and house flies which are attracted to warm, damp fur on rabbits, feces, urine or scent glands.
Rabbits who are obese, have large moo-laps (males) or dewlaps (females) or large skin folds around their genitalia or abdomen, have malocclusion and cannot groom themselves properly, who have urinary issues, are elderly or arthritic, have soft stools, or have long fur or matts, or an open wound are most susceptible.
No matter what stage…this is an EMERGENCY!
Vet care should be sought immediately. Do NOT wait for morning!!!!!
The time from the laying of eggs to emergence of maggots can happen in as little as a few hours.
By the time most owners notice something is “off” fly strike is already well advanced.
Fatal damage may occur in as little as 72 hours!
Rabbits who have fly strike will need antibiotics to prevent infection, anti-inflammatory/pain killing drugs and sometimes IV or Sub-Q fluids. Sedation or general anaesthesia is often necessary for wound cleaning and debridement.
Daily examination of pet rabbits is necessary if fly strike is to be identified early. Attention to your rabbit’s diet, activity level and regular grooming, will help prevent or identify fly strike in its early stages.
Keep your rabbits home and litterbox clean…cleanliness is excellent prevention.
- Signs of pain; tooth grinding, not eating, backed into small area, not active.
- Trying to bite fur or chew constantly
- Small areas of whitish rice-like grains on fur
- Maggots on skin and in hair